|November 18, 2011 / 21 Heshvan, 5772|
The book of Deuteronomy ends with the death of Moses. The
book of Joshua ends with the death of Joshua. Saul, the first King of Israel
dies at the end of the first book of Samuel but King David dies at the
beginning of the first book of Kings. Usually heroes, leaders, die at the end
of the book at the end of their story, but the author of the Book of Kings must
have desired to make a specific point when he chose to reverse this order.
It is possible that the connecting thread that links the
Torah portion and the haftarah reading provides a hint to the authorís reason
for this reversal. The Torah reading for Hayye Sarah is connected to the
haftorah thematically through the common link of aging. In each text the phrase
ďold and advanced in yearsí appears in the Torah we are concerned with the
death of Abraham. In the haftarah it is the death of David. It is possible that
this connection was made to challenge us to consider the consequences of two
distinctly different approaches to aging.
The haftarah is composed of four incidents. The first we see
David as an old man, weak and frail, and most likely cold and alone at night.
Perhaps he was so lonely that he had to summon a young girl to provide him with
warmth. The text is very explicit it wasnít for sex. The second incident
revolves around the plotting of his son, Adonijah, who desperately wants to succeed
his father. The third incident reveals yet another of the conspiracies and
plotting that surround Davidís life as Bathsheva politically maneuvers her way
to insure that her son, Solomon, succeeds his father even though he is the
youngest son. Finally the author of our story allows us to learn the fatherís
response to all the plotting and chicanery that was necessary to assure
Davidís legacy was a reflection of the life he had
lived.† As Michael Fishbane states in his
haftorah commentary, ďa manipulator in his lifetime, David was manipulated in
his old age.Ē It took the creativity of the rabbinic tradition to develop a
broader vision of David and to paint him as a truly noble figure.
Abraham, on the other hand, enters old age with dignity and
integrity. After the death of Sarah he purchases burial plot for his family and
he begins to prepare his family for his forthcoming demise. He makes his
servant Eliezer swear that his son Isaac will marry within the clan. He
bequeaths gifts to the children of his concubines thus avoiding contentious
fighting that could take place after his death. All of us know how painful the
division of property can be for siblings with issues when their parentsí
possessions need to be divided.
The haftarah suggests that the manner in which we choose to
conduct ourselves in life often is reflective of how those who follow us choose
to live. Our lives surely serve as a model for our children. The haftorah
reminds us that how we choose to model ourselves makes a difference both for us
and those who succeed us.
This week's Haftarah commentary was written by
Rabbi Charles Simon, Executive Director of the FJMC and author of
"Building A Successful Volunteer Culture: Finding Meaning in Service in the Jewish" Jewish Lights Publishing.
The opinions expressed in this Unraveller are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the FJMC.
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